The Treasure Hunter

A blog by Joanne Yatvin

How Students Learned Better and Loved It

on March 3, 2020

By Joanne Yatvin

Yesterday I noticed on my computer that many readers have looked at an article I wrote several years ago called “The Difference Between a Good School and an Effective School”, which I no longer consider relevant. What I was trying to do back then was to describe what I thought were good schools, but now I’m afraid they no longer exist. Along with most outside observers, I now have a limited view of today’s schools because I can’t visit them as I once did. I can judge schools only by what I read in newspapers or hear from friends, which is low test scores and bad behavior. In addition, many good public schools have closed recently, while private schools have ben oppening up. And I often read about how much money private schools are getting, and that makes me angry. What right do they have to destroy good public schools so they can get larger incomes?

Because I remember my experience as a teacher, and later as a principal of two elementary schools, I am appalled by what I read about school operations today. Even though not all schools were good in the past, teachers, principals, and parents were able to help them improve. Back then students learned better and also respected their teachers. In addition, parents participated in school operations and made things better for everyone.

  1. My first teaching job was in a third grade classroom of a small country school where I quickly learned there that students’ reading abilities were mixed, and their behavior was poor. Also, our classroom didn’t have different level reading books or enough teaching materials. Apparently, the school couldn’t afford adequate classroom needs. So I asked a local library for books, and it graciously supplied us. I also set up a weekly newspaper in the classroom so we could read about local events and discuss them. Finally, in order to perform in the school auditorium, children made stuffed dolls and their clothing, so they could perform in the auditorium. But because they couldn’t manipulate their dolls and speak for them at the same time, we recorded their voices so they could move their dolls along with the word sounds. Their performance turned out to be a great success.
  2. At another elementary school where I taught, children became interested in making items that could be sold to others at school. So we told them they should do their work at home with their parents, and then bring the items to sell at our school store, which would open for one day a weak during the noon hour. Most kids made small toys, but a few wrote books or created useful items. When teachers saw new things for sale they suggested what there prices should be. Older children were chosen to sell items or give change inside the store. Outside the store a teacher kept students who wanted to buy things stand in line. 
  3. When I came to my last school, based in a small country town, I saw that the schoolyard had been badly kept, and was then very dirty. Also the street next to the school was filled with trash. So teachers chose older students to clean up both areas, and the city provided work outfits and tools for them.  They cleaned the street three or four times a year and did a good job. In the schoolyard younger workers leveled all the rough ground and cleaned the insides of work cabins. Then older children planted vegetables out in sunny areas while young children planted flowers near the school building. Unfortunately, the school was not fully closed in, so outsiders got inside at night and took vegetables.
  4. Later at that school, older students were chosen to work outside their classrooms for 30 minutes a day, supervised by teachers, and they earned points for their work. Their jobs were serving lunch to young children, cleaning up the school dining room after lunch and the school practice room at the end of the day. Others delivered items to classrooms and collected trash in them at the end of the day. Because some of the items thrown into garbage cans were still valuable, older students picked them up and sold them to a company. As a result our garbage costs became lower than in the past.

 Although I still think about the work I did with students I can’t remember it well anymore.  I just want to emphasize how significant jobs were for students.  Not only did they learn new skills, they also enjoyed and respected their schools more than most students do today.







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